Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your

Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your

Design Thinking can’t start and not using a deeper understanding of the individuals you might be designing for. To be able to acquire these insights, it is vital for you as a design thinker to empathize with the individuals you’re designing for as a way to perceive their wants, ideas, feelings and motivations. The excellent news is that you’ve a variety of strategies at your command for studying extra about individuals. The even higher information is that this: with sufficient mindfulness and expertise, anybody can grow to be a grasp at empathizing with individuals.

“Partaking with individuals instantly reveals an amazing quantity about the method they suppose and the values they maintain. Typically these ideas and values are usually not apparent to the individuals who maintain them. A deep engagement can shock each the designer and the designee by the unanticipated insights which can be completely different from what they really do – are robust indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the method the world is.”

– d. College Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013

Growing Empathy in direction of Individuals

The primary stage (or mode) of the Design Thinking course of includes creating a way of empathy in direction of the individuals you might be designing for, to realize insights into what they want, what they need, how they behave, really feel, and suppose, and why they display such behaviors, emotions, and ideas when interacting with merchandise in a real-world setting.

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The 5 phases of Design Thinking are usually not all the time sequential — they don’t have to comply with any particular order, and you can find they will usually happen in parallel and you’ll repeat them iteratively. As such, the phases needs to be understood as completely different modes that contribute to a challenge, quite than sequential steps. Nonetheless, most initiatives start with an “Empathizing” part.

To achieve empathy in direction of individuals, we as design thinkers usually observe them in their pure surroundings passively or have interaction with them in interviews. Additionally, as design thinkers, we must always attempt to think about ourselves in these customers’ surroundings, or moving into their sneakers as the saying goes, in order to realize a deeper understanding of their conditions. In the following sections, we are going to define some strategies from Bootcamp Bootleg that can will let you acquire empathy in direction of your customers.

Assuming a Newbie’s Mindset

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The mode dial of a Canon EOS Digital SLR digital camera. How would a newbie photographer know what to decide on? To assist newcomers, absolutely computerized modes are represented with icons on the dial, which makes it straightforward for a non-expert to guess what they imply (e.g., clockwise from high, video, evening portrait, sports activities, closeups, and so on.). Icons are additionally common – i.e., impartial of language. Extra superior (professional) modes are proven with abbreviations – you actually need to learn the guide earlier than you employ any of those (e.g., “Television” doesn’t imply “tv”, however “time worth” – i.e., shutter precedence)! You would solely think about how a lot confusion this should trigger to novice Canon customers. Nikon use single letters as a substitute for the superior modes.

If we’re to empathize with customers, we must always all the time attempt to undertake the mindset of a newbie. What this implies is that, as designers (or design thinkers), we must always all the time do our greatest to depart our personal assumptions and experiences behind when making observations. Our life experiences create assumptions inside us, which we use to clarify and make sense of the world round us. Nonetheless, this very course of impacts our means to empathize in an actual method with the individuals we observe. Since utterly letting go of our assumptions is unattainable (no matter how a lot of a checkered popularity the phrase “assumption” has!), we must always consistently and consciously remind ourselves to imagine a newbie’s mindset. It’s useful should you all the time remind your self by no means to guage what you observe, however to query every part—even should you suppose you recognize the reply—and to actually hearken to what others are saying.

Ask What? How? Why?

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

UX designers’ attitudes in direction of their work stem from pure curiosity, inquisitive habits and fixed crucial appraisal of every part they encounter. On the lookout for the underlying components and motives that drive customers’ behaviors and desires is what results in profitable design.

By asking the three questions — What? How? Why? — we will transfer from concrete observations which can be free from assumptions to extra summary motivations driving the actions we’ve got noticed. Throughout our observations, as an illustration, we would discover individually recording the “Whats”, “Hows” and “Whys” of an individual’s single statement useful.

In “What”, we document the particulars (not assumptions) of what has occurred. In “How”, we analyze how the individual is doing what he/she is doing (is he/she exerting lots of effort? Is that particular person smiling or frowning?). Lastly, in “Why”, we make educated guesses relating to the individual’s motivations and feelings. These motivations we will then check with customers.

Photograph and Video Consumer-based Research

Photographing or recording goal customers, like different empathizing strategies, might help you uncover wants that individuals have which they might or might not be conscious of. It may well assist information your innovation efforts, establish the proper finish customers to design for, and uncover feelings that information behaviors.

In person camera-based research, customers are photographed or filmed both: (a) in a pure setting; or (b) throughout periods with the design workforce or consultants you’ve employed to collect info. For instance, you may establish a bunch of people that possess sure traits which can be consultant of your audience. You document them whereas they’re experiencing the drawback you’re aiming to resolve. You may refresh your reminiscence at a later time with issues individuals mentioned, emotions that have been evoked, and behaviors that you just recognized. You may then simply share this with the remainder of your workforce.

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A gaggle of three vacationers, looking for their method in a metropolis. On this, the researchers’ photograph, they’re huddled round the map proven on the cell phone. In the photograph, we see how exhausting a time individuals have once they attempt to collaborate utilizing the small display – the lady in the background, for instance, has no method of pointing at issues on the display, and therefore can’t assist her group as a lot (photograph courtesy of A. Komninos, from Besharat et al. 2016).

Private Photograph and Video Journals

On this technique, you hand over the digital camera to your customers and provides them directions, specifically to take footage of or video-record their actions throughout a specified interval. The benefit is that you just don’t intrude or disturb the customers with your private presence, although they may adapt and alter their regular habits barely as they know that you just’ll watch the video or see the photograph journal later. In the same strategy to utilizing personas, by partaking actual individuals, as designers we acquire invaluable private experiences and tales that hold the human side of design firmly in thoughts all through the complete course of. Whereas we in all probability know, deep down, what limits are concerned when three persons are making an attempt to make use of one cellphone, there’s nothing like the first-hand proof of a stay (and recorded) efficiency to place this entrance and heart in our consciousness from the outset.

Copyright holder: Andreas Komninos, College of Strathclyde. Copyright phrases and license: CC0

Pictures returned by customers throughout a research the place they have been requested to document instances the place they wanted to enter textual content on their cellular or pill gadgets. As a result of the context of use is clearly proven in the footage, the researchers can perceive so much about the place and the way textual content must be entered when the returned footage are good (e.g., in the left picture, the person wanted to enter a quantity to pay for parking through cellular, and we will see how a lot textual content wanted to be entered, the gadget and even the climate). However not all returned footage are nice! Customers are usually not professional photographers, and they’ll usually return materials that isn’t of a lot use (e.g., on the proper, we will see the person is sat comfortably with their pill, however we don’t know what they have been making an attempt to do, due to the digital camera flash). Photos courtesy of A. Komninos, M.D. Dunlop and E. Nicol, College of Strathclyde.

With that in thoughts, let’s hear from IDEO, a number one worldwide design consulting agency based in California in 1991:

“We use this technique to transcend an in-person Interview to higher perceive an individual’s context, the individuals who encompass them, group dynamics, and the journey by means of how they use a services or products. Photojournals might help create a basis for richer dialogue as they prime a person earlier than an interview which implies they begin fascinated by the topic a number of days in advance.”

– IDEO,, Photojournal


Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Interviews are an necessary a part of the UX designer’s skillset for empathizing with customers. Nonetheless, an interview will yield solely minimal outcomes if you’re not ready to conduct it with real empathy.

One-on-one interviews generally is a productive strategy to join with actual individuals and acquire insights. Speaking on to the individuals you’re designing for could also be the finest strategy to perceive wants, hopes, needs and objectives. The advantages are just like video- and camera-based research, however interviews are typically structured, and interviewers will sometimes have a set of questions they want to ask their interviewees. Interviews, due to this fact, supply the private intimacy and directness of different statement strategies, whereas permitting the design workforce to focus on particular areas of data to direct the Design Thinking course of.

Most of the work occurs earlier than the interviews: workforce members will brainstorm to generate inquiries to ask customers and create themes or subjects round the interview questions to allow them to stream easily from one to a different.

Partaking with Excessive Customers

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Excessive customers are few in quantity, however it doesn’t imply you need to disregard them and goal only for the fundamental bulk of customers as a substitute. In reality, they will present wonderful insights that different customers might merely be unprepared to reveal.

By specializing in the extremes, you can find that the issues, wants and strategies of fixing issues grow to be magnified. First, you have to establish the extremes of your potential person base; then, you need to have interaction with this group to determine their emotions, ideas and behaviors, after which take a look at the wants you may discover in all customers. Contemplate what makes a person excessive and also you’ll have a tendency to note it’s the circumstances concerned. A primary instance is a grocery retailer procuring cart and a consumer with 5 very younger youngsters in tow – there are two fold-down seats in the cart, however the different youngsters (who’re additionally too younger to stroll) should go someplace. Our shopper is, due to this fact, an excessive person of the procuring cart design.

On the one hand, should you can handle to please an excessive person, you need to actually have the ability to hold your fundamental physique of customers completely happy. On the different hand, you will need to observe that the goal of partaking with excessive customers is not to develop options for these customers, however to sieve out issues that mainstream customers may need bother voicing; nevertheless, in many instances, the wants of utmost customers are inclined to overlap with the wants of the majority of the inhabitants. So, whilst you might not have the ability to hold everybody completely happy always with your design, you’ll be able to actually enhance the probabilities that it’s going to not frustrate customers.

Analogous Empathy

Utilizing analogies might help the design workforce to develop new insights. By evaluating one area with one other, we as designers can conjure completely different options that may not essentially come to thoughts when working inside the constraints of 1 self-discipline. For instance, the extremely aggravating and time-sensitive process of working on a affected person in a hospital emergency room may be analogous to the technique of refuelling and changing the tires of a race automobile in a pit cease. A few of the strategies you may use in analogous empathy embrace evaluating your drawback and one other in a unique discipline, creating an ‘inspiration board’ with notes and footage, and specializing in related points between a number of areas.

Sharing Inspiring Tales

Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interplay Design Basis. Copyright phrases and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

In the phrases of the nice creator Terry Pratchett, “Individuals suppose that tales are formed by individuals. In reality, it is the different method round.” We’d paraphrase barely right here, because it’s true that merchandise are formed by the tales that individuals inform about them.

Every individual in a design workforce will gather completely different items of data, have completely different ideas, and are available up with completely different options. Because of this, you need to share your inspiring tales to gather all of the workforce members’ analysis, from discipline research, interviews, and so on. By sharing the tales that every member has noticed, the workforce can rise up to hurry on progress, draw that means from the tales, and seize attention-grabbing particulars of the statement work.


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An individual sporting particular goggles that simulate imaginative and prescient impairments, making an attempt to perform a easy activity (seizing a grain of rice with the tweezers and transferring it to the adjoining empty container). Performing out completely different situations might help the researchers themselves higher perceive the issues {that a} specific person group may face. That is actually moving into the customers’ sneakers!

Bodystorming is the act of bodily experiencing a scenario in order to immerse oneself absolutely in the customers’ surroundings. This requires a substantial quantity of planning and energy, as the surroundings have to be stuffed with the artifacts current in the real-world surroundings, and the normal environment/really feel should precisely depict the customers’ setting. Bodystorming places the workforce in the customers’ sneakers, thereby boosting the emotions of empathy we’d like as designers in order to return up with the most becoming options. Having that ‘real-life’ expertise will function a reference level for later in the course of, enabling us to cease, stand again and ask ourselves: “Bear in mind once we tried being the person? How would this new factor match in with that?”

The Take Away

Once we are in a Design Thinking workforce, we’ve got a wealth of how at our disposal to allow us to empathize with our customers. Collectively, these strategies supply us perception into the customers’ wants, and the way they suppose, really feel, and behave. Every technique makes an attempt to reinforce the design workforce’s understanding of their goal person and market, and to understand precisely what customers want and need from their product(s). Statement strategies is not going to solely allow us to collect uncooked knowledge, statistics and demographics; they may also supply alternatives for us to attract insights that we will then apply in designing an answer. Empathizing with customers is a vital part of the Design Thinking course of; to disregard the advantages of studying from others is to neglect what Design Thinking is actually about. Therefore, we should, to an acceptable diploma, ‘grow to be’ our customers if we’re to supply them fine-tuned options that lead in the market.

References & The place to Study Extra

Course: Design Thinking – The Newbie’s Information: Bootcamp Bootleg, 2013:

Besharat, J., Komninos, A., Papadimitriou, G., Lagiou, E., & Garofalakis, J. (2016). Augmented paper maps: Design of POI markers and results on group navigation. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Good Environments, 8(5), 515-530.

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